November 7, 2013 | by Susan Tuz From the New Milford Spectrum
Tony’s a dedicated marathoner, via the handcycle
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
When Tony Allegretti raced Sunday, Nov. 3, in the New York City Marathon, he was drinking Gu to keep up his stamina.
Why? Well, the thick gel-filled packets are easier to handle than eating protein bars while riding a handcycle.
For Allegretti, 70, of New Milford, this was his second experience in the Big Apple race.
“I finished in four hours, 57 minutes … very slow,” he said this week. “But my family was there at the finish line and we had a great time.”
His first time, in 2010, he traveled the 26.2-mile course in four hours and 56 minutes. He had been hoping to break that standard this year.
Allegretti races in marathons, half-marathons and team triathalons as a member of Achilles International, an organization encouraging and helping to train disabled men and women who want to participate in mainstream athletics.
“It’s demanding just to get to the starting line and requires someone to help,” Allegretti said. “You have to park the car, get out the handcycle and the wheelchair, get in the wheelchair and get yourself and the handcycle to the starting line.
“Then you have to take the prosthetic leg off, and get onto the handcycle,” he said.
Since that first marathon in 2010, Allegretti also has participated in rock climbing and kayaking — all with volunteer assistants.
“Rock climbing is demanding,” he said. “You have to pull yourself up with your arms. It’s very difficult.”
Achilles has become a big part of life for Allegretti, a retired New York City police officer. He became a member a year after his right leg had been amputated.
In 2008, a scratch on his leg became infected, forcing amputation that December.
Nine weeks later, Allegretti had a long-awaited liver transplant.
During rehabilitation, he was introduced to his first utility handcycle — a three-wheel bike propelled by peddling with one’s arms.
Achilles founder Dick Traum gave him his first racing handcycle shortly after they met. Allegretti considers Traum, also a right leg amputee, to be his mentor.
“If it wasn’t for Dick starting Achilles, there’d be so many people without this outlet,” Allegretti said.
Following in his mentor’s footsteps, Allegretti started a Connecticut Achilles Chapter in 2011. He handed over the reins of president to Erin Spaulding in 2013.
He continues to serve on the advisory board. The chapter now has 75 members.
“I met Tony at a Gaylord Rehabilitation Center adaptive sports program event,” said Spaulding, who a year ago was participating while using a walker.
“He is paying forward what he went through in adapting his athletic ability. Meeting Tony is connecting to a person who understands,” she said. “He brings your confidence in yourself back up and leads you on through the Achilles family he’s created.”
Allegretti lives at Butterbrook elderly housing. His daughter, Melissa Palmer, and granddaughter, Maddie, 14, also live in New Milford.